Op-Ed: Don’t Blame The Cops

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The fervent zeal with which the authorities in Odisha are implementing the amended Motor Vehicles (MV) Act slapping hefty penalties on violators has triggered a furious debate. With fines in some cases ( like in the case of the autorickshaw driver who was asked to pay Rs.47500) being outrageously high the drive is being described in certain quarters as a case of overzealousness to fill the government coffers as fast as possible.

There have been attempts to demonize the police and transport officials trying to enforce the law which has already begun showing results. Allegations are flying thick and fast that traffic police personnel checking vehicles are deliberately harassing people and imposing fines at the slightest pretext as if drawing perverse pleasure from the act.

What is obvious is that the drive is making an impact with penalties burning a hole in the pockets of most violators. No wonder they are cursing those responsible for their plight. But that does not make a villain out of every policeman. To be honest most of them are only discharging their duties with due sincerity.

There are arguments that the drive should have been preceded by an extensive awareness drive on the new traffic rules and regulations to sensitize people. While there is no denying the need for awareness in such matters it is also true that low penalty rates had made people indifferent to the several sensitization campaigns conducted in this regard in the past.

The punishment was simply not deterrent enough. There were several cases of underage kids from well to do families driving vehicles without any license and repeating the offence despite being fined because the penalty did not really bother them or their families. Now with a 16-year-old boy from a middle class family being fined Rs.25000 for driving a two-wheeler parents are certain to sit up and take notice.

However, even as the authorities appear to be enforcing the law with a missionary zeal they must also take into account the problems that people face in complying with the new regulations. For example it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that there are enough pollution testing centres in different areas and they remain open for people to collect their ‘ pollution under control’ certificates. Making such facilities available to people is the responsibility of the government.

The government otherwise cannot be faulted for conducting this drive which had become imperative in view of the rising number of road accidents. According to an estimate on an average 14 people lose their lives in road mishaps in the state everyday. In 2018 road accidents claimed 5,315 lives which works out to 1.2 deaths every two hours.

The last one decade has seen an increase of 72 per cent in the casualty figures in road mishaps which is a significant leap. The overall rise in accidents during this period has been to the tune of 38 percent. So there is every justification is resorting to drastic measures to curb this gory trend.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)